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Add A Google-Compatible Sitemap For Your WordPress Blog

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Want to help Google index your WordPress-based Web site more efficiently and effectively? Sign up for Google’s Webmaster tools, install a plugin that creates a sitemap, and be sure to tell Google where to find it. In this article, WordPress 2: Visual QuickStart Guide author Maria Langer takes you through the steps you need to follow. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s a lot easier than you might think.
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Most serious Web publishers—including bloggers—have one goal in common: they want to increase their visibility to Google in an attempt to improve ranking in search results. While there are many ways to improve a site's ranking, the first step is to make sure that Google sees your Web site and indexes it thoroughly. That's where sitemaps can help.

A sitemap file provides information about the pages on your site, making it easy for search engine robots, like those used by Google, to find and index all the pages on your site. While this isn't guaranteed to boost your search engine rankings, it will ensure that Google indexes your site in its entirety. And that's a good thing.

In this article, I explain the things you need to do to create a Google-compatible sitemap file and how you can tell Google all about it.

Creating The Sitemap File

While Google supports sitemaps in a number of formats, it encourages you to use sitemaps in the Sitemap protocol. This protocol, which was developed by Google and is released as an open-source project, can contain a list of URLs, as well as additional information about each URL. Google offers a Python script for creating compliant sitemaps. But let's face it: how many of us really want to deal with Python, even if we could? (I don't know the first thing about Python and like it that way.) And do you really want to run a Python script every time you update your blog?

Enter the Google Sitemap Generator by Arne Brachhold. This WordPress plugin works with WordPress 1.5.1.1 or later. Although version 2.7 is the latest version, it dates back to July 2005; a newer beta version, 3.0b6, is also available. I'm a coward when it comes to running beta software, so I downloaded version 2.7.

The plugin is very easy to install and configure.

  1. Download the plugin file from the Web.
  2. If necessary, extract its folder full of files from the ZIP archive.
  3. Use your favorite FTP client (or a network connection, if available) to upload the google-sitemap-generator folder to the plugins folder for your WordPress blog.
    Figure 1

    Figure 1 I use Fetch on my Mac to upload the plugin files to the plugin folder.

  4. Use your Web browser to log into your WordPress blog and navigate to the Plugins management screen. (Click Plugins in the Dashboard.)
  5. Scroll down to find the Google Sitemaps plugin and click the Activate button in its line to activate it.
    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Activate the plugin in the Plugin Management screen.

  6. In the WordPress administration panel, click Options and then click Sitemap to display the Sitemap Generator plugin options.
    Figure 3

    Figure 3 Sitemap Generator has lots of configurable options.

  7. Click the Rebuild Sitemap button near the top of the screen. The plugin creates a sitemap for your entire blog and saves it in the root directory for your blog as sitemap.xml. It also saves a compressed version of the file called sitemap.xml.gz.

While the Google Sitemap Generator plugin has lots of configurable options, I'll let you explore them on your own. You can find more information on the page from which you downloaded the plugin (referenced above).

Although you can rebuild the sitemap at any time by clicking the Rebuild Sitemap button (Figure 3), you don't have to. The plugin will automatically update the sitemap every time you update your blog.

Oh, and one more thing: the Google Sitemap Generator is free, but that doesn't mean the author doesn't deserve a donation for saving you the bother of doing this manually (or using Python). If you can afford to send a few bucks his way, use the donation form on his site to thank him.

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